Academy of Chiropractic’s Lawyers PI Program
Build Your Infrastructure #63
From the Desk of :
Mark Studin DC, FASBE (C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
LIENS “Really Get Paid”
There are many scenarios that are variations of the 1/3 lien settlement rule with lawyers (please refer to the Liens-Liens-Liens Consultation). Understanding those scenarios are often the difference between getting paid and not. This past weekend doctors from around the country gathered and the #1 issue was to how to handle getting paid on liens from lawyers who are focused on “legally stealing your money.”
You don’t have any verification of your lien from the lawyer because you didn’t send it (The reasons are not relevant...you screwed up) Did you fax it and pull a “fax report” from the machine proving it was sent? Did you send it certified, green card receipt form the post office simultaneously? That has been explained in detail and the system can never be deviated from.
If the answer is no to any of the above, you are screwed because the lawyer knows the law. Frankly, so do you and there is a high probability you will not get paid…and YOU are the reason. In this scenario you have no other recourse but to go after the patient and that has a low probability of you getting paid as the PI patient usually disappears soon after you care for them because they know you want THEIR money.
You have all of your paperwork in order and have appropriate verification. The lawyer calls and tells you that he has a significant amount of disbursements and you will not get paid your 1/3 reduced fee in line with your business policy.
The answer: NO…you too have disbursements. Head rest paper, x-ray materials, conductive gel, etc… Your 1/3 fee is off the top, not after the lawyers expenses are paid. If they balk, remember… you have the power in the contract in that the lawyer cannot disburse any money until all of the liens are satisfied. The biggest issue, your patient cannot get paid until you are first satisfied. This is where you start to “dig your heels in” realizing the biggest proponent for you is the patient. They want their money and will nag the lawyer to resolve the issue.
You have all of your paperwork in order and have appropriate verification. There are multiple provider and the lawyer is asking you (usually politely) to reduce your fee below the 1/3 amount so that everyone get paid immediately.
The answer: Absolutely, however the amount you reduce your fee is the same % the lawyer reduces their fee (politely). You are a team player and if the team is “taking a hit,” as a team player, so will you. This is always based upon verification that the lawyer and everyone else is lowering their fee. The verification is copies of disbursement checks.
The lawyer will usually say that their client will not allow that information to be released. That line is historically a line of “crap” and an attempt to hide the facts. Your answer is “no problem, then my fee is the full amount.” At the end of the conversation, the lawyer will send you verification if they want to settle the issue because THEY want to get paid.
Again, remember that you have the power in the relationship because you have a contract called a lien and if you do not get paid, then no one does. No matter what the lawyer says, never lose sight of that fact.
A good lawyer who is a also a scumbag will attempt to keep you on the phone for a long time to find the wedge to get you to take less. Do not engage in a long conversation as it will never be to your benefit. Also, do not fall into the pitfall of taking less and hoping to work with this lawyer for more patients in the future. The lawyer will then proceed to try to screw you with every patient in the future.
Set the groundwork, be flexible and work within the system. Most ethical lawyers will not have an issue with you and be happy to continue to work within your system because it removes any confrontations in the future.
The lawyer asks you “to take this one for the team.” If I have a good relationship with the lawyer and they have proven to be fair in the past, I will do anything they ask for this 1 CASE. I have even worked for free in 1-2 cases with a very good referring lawyer.
Be very careful not to do this with a new lawyer because they will expect this to be the rule and not the exception.
When it is time for settlement disbursement the lawyer wants you to bill the indemnity (managed care) company. The answer is always NO. You will gladly give the patients HCFA’s with the same fees and codes you created for the PI case and the patient can wait to get reimbursed. This is a non-negotiable alternative to getting paid form the settlement.
As time goes on, please share with me additional situations and they will be added to this list…Thank you